French Tennis Federation Seeks Betting Prohibition on French Open

1 February 2008

The French Tennis Federation filed lawsuits in Belgium and France today to bar Betfair, Bwin and Ladbrokes from taking bets on the French Open. The Federation says it is concerned that online betting is tarnishing the integrity of their sport.

"There is urgency to act because sporting ethic is at risk," Jean-Francois Vilotte, director general of the French Tennis Federation, told the Associated Press. "It is an issue as important as the fight against doping."

Complaints filed in Liege, Belgium, and Paris, France, seek an injunction prohibiting Betfair, Bwin and Ladbrokes from taking wagers on the tournament as well as a fine of 50,000 euros per day for violations.

Betfair has always contended that the transparent accounting of its betting exchange does more to illuminate match-fixing than to facilitate it. The company has signed memoranda of understanding with several sport bodies, including the Association of Tennis Professionals, whereby it shares information with sport authorities should it ever detect irregular betting patterns.

"Targeting the only betting operator which is completely transparent and, where needed, shares all its betting information with the ITF and ATP would be just plain bizarre," Betfair managing director Mark Davies told the Canadian Press. "I would be astonished if any sensible regulator wanted to go down this route or believed it could help protect the integrity of its sport when it so obviously does the opposite."

Tennis has been rife with suspicion of match-fixing in recent years. The ATP was alerted to allegations in 2003 and launched investigations. No charges resulted, but the character of Yevgeny Kafelnikov was called into question by many newspapers. A more recent concern is Betfair's voiding of all wagers on a match between fifth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko and 87th-ranked Martin Vassalo this past August. Betfair reported irregular betting patterns on the match, which resulted in Davydenko withdrawing in the third set from a foot injury.

The ATP is investigating Davydenko but no findings have been announced. Several players have since revealed that they have been approached with offers to fix matches, however. Last year three Italian players were suspended for betting, but they only wagered on matches that involved other players.

This year's French Open is scheduled for May 25 to June 8 in Roland Garros. The French Federation says it attracts 3 billion viewers worldwide.

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